Enigma was the last restaurant we add to our Barcelona itinerary not because they were of lowest priority, but their reservations only open 60 days in advance (same as other restaurants under their group including Tickets which we visited in 2016). We would be left with limited backup options if we fail to secure our seats at Enigma.
The visit to Enigma was awaited with much anticipation as it was the closest that Chef Albert Adrià have re-created that inherited some DNA of the legendary el Bulli (which closed in 30 July 2011).
When they first opened in 2017, they were named Barcelona’s Most Secretive Restaurant as there was a strict no photo policy. The rule was somehow relaxed about a year later. What remained consistent was the use of a special code which was given to the guests to be entered at the front door in order to gain entry to the restaurant. Not sure if this is because Enigma is also a famous encryption machine used by the Germans during WWII to transmit coded messages. =)
Once you unlock the door, guests will walk through a hallway which resembles an ice cave and be greeted by the hosts at the end. The foyer space is named Ryokan and was where we were served a welcome drink of Pumpkin “Restaurant” fermented Yucca root chilled tea on a high table.
After a quick sip, we were led to the next space – La Cava which is like a lounge area where we would be served apéritif and snacks. The Süs is a cocktail made with gin, dry vermouth and mandarin cordial finished with aromatic orange oil. And we proceeded to enjoy snacks featuring Pistachio and Mandarin (Orange). We were certain that the restaurant is using seasonal ingredients as Mandarin Orange is an auspicious fruit use during house visits as symbol of good luck during Chinese New Year celebration- 5th to 19th Feb for 2019. The citrusy fruit is also eaten throughout the festive season.
First snack we had was the Airpancake, Pistachio & Yuzu (which somewhat reminds us of the Air Waffle at Tickets) followed by Tender Pistachio Cracker that has a crispy base (like the Jap rice crackers) topped with pistachio nut.
The third snack Pistachio Honey Ravioli was served and held close to us, as it was a delicate item to be picked up and eaten in 1 bite. The “ravioli skin” was really soft. Thankfully we didn’t destroy it this time round as we destroyed one at Distrufar the day before. I really enjoyed this sweet and pillowy snack topped with crushed nutty pistachio.
The next two snacks continued to see Jap cuisine influences as we had the Pistachio Tofu and Green Mandarine Kakigori.
The repertoire of snacks really impressed me as they had used 2 key ingredients, transformed them into various textures and forms for us to enjoy these delectable bite-size snacks. I guess the chefs might have experimented and developed a lot more recipes before shortlisting these 4 to present.
After completing the snacks, we were led to another space La Barra for another theme. Guests were all seated around the Jap-styled sushi counter as we watched the Chefs prepare our dishes. Our host at the area introduced the space to us as the Coastal Bar where we could be trying various seafood. Here we opted to pair the seafood courses with Sohomare Kimoto Junmai Ginjo from the wine by glass selection.
The first item which was prepared in front of us was foie gras (from France) which needs to be cured in anchovy salt for 10 mins while we taste other dishes. The anchovy salt is said to be a byproduct from their sister restaurants such as Tickets from curing anchovies. After setting the foie gras in the box, our host then moved on to explain the next course King Crab | Marrow. The Alaska King Crab leg had been cured in miso, soy and sugar for approximately 25 to 30 mins. It was then glazed with some white soy sauce as a finishing touch. The marrow from the king crab was cooked at low temperature turning it into a delicate jelly texture and topped off with some king crab roe. We were told to first taste one portion of the crab followed by slurping the marrow off the plate and ending with another portion of the crab meat. The crab meat was absolutely tender while the marrow was silky smooth.
For the second course of Caviar & Iberian Ham | Glass Eel with Caviar “Pil Pil” we got to try 2 different types of caviar. First was Kaluga caviar, from the river shared between Russia and China, served with crème fraiche at the bottom in the spoon. Next we had ‘the caviar of Northern Spain‘ – glass eels. They are said to be one of Spain‘s most expensive food due to its limited supply. The host then added Italian caviar sauce over the glass eels. I think this was made to resemble eating caviar pasta as the glass eels were suppose to have texture similar to spaghetti. Be it the real caviar or glass eels, both are considered delicacies that were well-handled.
The third course featured an ingredient that we were more familiar with – Barnacle. However it was paired with a black coloured plant. There was a specimen passed around and they allowed guests to touch and feel the rubbery texture before explaining that it is a type of seaweed known as Codium. The next course was therefore named Barnacle & Codium | Codium & Barnacle. We were told to first taste the barnacle coated with the lime-green coloured codium sauce before tasting the barnacle jelly with codium bits in it. It’s an interesting way of presenting the same ingredients in different ways. Personally I wouldn’t mind eating the barnacles in their original form which has a sweet and chewy texture (similar to clams).
By the time we finished the three courses, the Anchovies Foie was ready. The host removed the salt covering the foie and sprinkled a dash of black pepper before presenting it to us. You can also catch the video of how it’s made here. The curing certainly changed the texture of the foie gras and even the fussy eater next to me found it acceptable. I usually get to eat his share of the foie gras whenever it appeared on any menu, but it was so good that I didn’t get to eat the extra portion here….
After completing the courses at the Coastal Bar, we were led to the next space which was the main dining hall – Dinner where we could sit down comfortably in proper chairs. *I only realised that our dining sequence had been switched around when I saw posts of other diners where they proceeded to La Planxa before finishing their main courses here. Perhaps due to the limited seats at each space, they had to manage the occupancy at each space*
Here we had to rely on the host to recommend us the wine to pair the dishes with as we were not told of what we were going to eat, in fact they would only describe the dishes after we finished eating each of them. We went with the recommended wine of Vega Aixala Syrah 2014. The type of wine gave us some clue that the courses would be filled with red meat and rich flavours.
The first dish was a super mini-size cube sitting on the huge plate. It seems to say “I’m tiny but mighty”. We could certainly guessed that its some kind of paté and we were told that it is Game Juice & Paté of pigeon after popping it into our mouth.
After the tiny bite, we were then served a black-coloured paste like dish. There was a strong mushroom flavour in this Wild Wood Pigeon Tartar pigeon breast tartar with black truffle.
This bright orangey-red flesh needs no introduction as it is clearly our favourite crustacean. However what’s interesting about this is way it had been prepared. The Cured Lobster tail had been cured in aged ox fat and char-grilled. The lobster was really tender yet chewy with a smoky flavour. Found the video of its preparation here though I think it would be cool if they showed us the clip on an ipad after we ate it.
The next dish was also apparent to us as we made a guess that it is Lobster Bisque at the first sight. It was later introduced to us as “Bisque” & its Roe. The host specifically told us not to dip the bread into the soup as it is very crispy. The air croissant was very flaky and there was also a video of how it was made here.
This was the most interesting dish we had in this space. What do you think this was? I thought it was pretty obvious that they were mussels but it was unveiled that they were Stuffed Mussels with oysters, served in sauce from the mussels with olive oil.
For the next dish, we were told to start from the left side and to take in one bite before combining the leaves and cream. I was clueless on what was the pinkish lump…This was Autumn Salad Sea anemone with grilled lettuce, emulsion of sea anemone, vinaigrette and seaweed chlorella.
At this point, the wine was changed to Gai’a Wines Assyrtiko Wild Fermented 2016 as we were served the next dish.
We could taste the tart notes from the pickled onions with the earthy mushrooms. This was the Funghi Porcini “Escabeche” Sauce with pine nut cream, pickled onions and mushroom sauce. It was cooked in OCOO machine with pressure and low temperature. This Korean machine has been a favourite amongst Chefs in Barcelona since it was discovered. Over at Disfrutar, we tasted how the machine transformed the taste and texture of cauliflower into a dish known as Black Cauliflower.
Another perennial winter root vegetable that we are familiar with made its appearance. From our tasting we figured out that it clearly consist of olives. It was later explained that Artichoke & Olive featured artichokes cooked in two different methods: Boiled artichoke with cream from Verdial olive oil which is more citric, topped with the seed of the olive and Grilled artichoke with mandarin; therefore we got to taste the artichoke in different textures.
For the next dish, we were told to eat the sphere in 1 bite before drinking the soup directly from the bowl. I could smell hints of bonito flake flavour in the clear soup with a slight wasabi taste. As the texture of the sphere was chewy, I thought it could be sea cucumber…but I was wrong. This dish was White Anchovies & Trout Roe Dango. The sphere was tapioca (Japanese dumpling: dango) and trout roe. The dashi was from smoked white anchovies.
Finally, the La Planxa (Translated from Catalan as: ‘The Iron’) was ready to seat us as we were invited over there. True to it’s name it was a Teppanyaki style counter (grilled iron plate). There were already other guests mid-way through their courses here, so the chefs were busy preparing multiple dishes on the hot plate. We weren’t sure what would be served to us but we were kept entertained by observing the activities.
The first item which was presented to us was Yuba & Edamame. The yuba (tofu skin) was freshly made in front of us on a small pan and topped with stratacella cheese, soy sauce and grilled edamame.
As we were seated on the side near to the charcoal grill, we were able to snap a picture of the pea being blitzed on the charcoal. It was later presented to us as Pea “Calcots” with extra virgin oil and salt.
For the next dish, they wanted us to taste it first before they let us know the answer and we can’t wait to have a go at it. It has a creamy taste which I thought was Shirako (sperm sac) but we were given a clue that its a meat. The answer turned out to be brain of rabbit. Rabbit Tamal had the rabbit brain sitting on a corn tamale. The corn tamale is a- Mesoamerican dish, made of masa or dough, which has a spongy texture.
Another familiar ingredients appeared, this time round its a Surf and Turf (Mar I Muntanya) combination which is also prevalent in Catalan cooking. Here we were presented with Wagyu & Sea Urchin beef cooked with uni sauce and guk-ganjang (Korean soy sauce).
Last dish at this space was Sea Urchin Chawanmushi topped with fresh wasabi. The touch of wasabi certainly brings out the freshness of the uni. I love the silky smooth texture of the steamed egg.
We were then led back to Dinner space for desserts, opting to pair the sweet courses with Fukucho Seafood Junmai.
“Tres Leches” (direct translation as “Three Milks”) consist of leche de tigre (aka “tiger’s milk”), custard from soy milk and coconut milk and topped with rice puff. It seemed like a good way to transit from savoury to the sweeter courses ahead.
After the light and refreshing dish earlier, the next course was a stark contrast with the dark soup paired with a blacken piece of unknown stuff. We were told to use that to dip into the sauce and mix it. The blacken piece looked like aubergine, but upon tasting it we figured that it’s a BANANA, a somewhat dehydrated version. I guessed that the black colour gravy is caramelised banana with foie gras cream. The answer revealed: Banana & Foie Gras. To be specific, it’s actually an oxidized banana and one ingredient we missed out was star anise. We were getting better at this guessing game =)
The next one however posed a challenge for us. We could taste sweet, sour, spicy etc. in the mix and were pretty clueless about it. It was later revealed to be Kaki, Raifort & Pumpkin Persimmon with kimchi, pumpkin seed oil and horseradish.
Cacao Bean is said to be a new dish. It felt like microwave sponge cake in different percentage of cacao. This dish has only 1 ingredient: Cacao. Chocolate 70%, 50%, fermented skin of the cacao bean and the seeds are used as well.
Soya, soya, soya is another interesting dessert as it was created with Soy. Ice Cream Soy Milk, Dried Yuba and Nattō (Fermented Soy Bean), Kinako (Toasted Soy Powder) and Toffee.
With this we finished our meal in the main hall and made our way to the final space of the night – 41 Degrees (41º) where we could have more cocktails and small snacks. 41º started off as a snack and cocktail bar adjacent to Tickets but Adrià decided to close it in 2014. It was said that the spot was transformed into the dessert room of Tickets (which we didn’t get invited to when we visited in 2016).
Back to the current 41º, we were presented with a cocktail & snacks pairing menu. The experience started with Umami Martini with Yuca cracker and Nori candy. The Umami Martini was a concoction of gin, parmesan cheese, rocoto pepper and fresh lime juice, while Nori candy was filled with nitro-lime inside to be taken in 1 bite and Yuca cracker with corn cream and chipotle.
The last snack to be paired with the first cocktail is called The third one which was a popcorn candy with liquid nitrogen which had to be eaten immediately. As with our other experience “eating” liquid nitrogen you had to constantly chew it to prevent getting cold burns from prolonged contact.
The next cocktail was Inside made with Mezcal and blood orange juice and it’s paired with the Vegetal ravioli which is stuffed with rambutan.
Our last cocktail was Autumn “carajillo” coffee-infused rum, sherry and macadamia nut foam. The cocktail was paired with “Peru Charanal” (70%) chocolate.
We completed the close to 40 course menu (including cocktails) in slightly over 3 hours. If not for the fact that we had to pack our luggage to catch an early flight the next morning, we would probably stay on in the bar for a few more drinks.
Summarising the overall Enigma experience, I must say the interior decor and use of space was what impressed me. Timely to mention that the menu was named “Espais” (Translated from Catalan as: ‘Spaces’). The idea of getting guests to transit from one space to another for different cooking style was a novel concept. However the significant Japanese influence in two of the spaces, and naturally some of the dishes, was not exactly something awe-inspiring for me. Because we (residing in Asia) could easily travel to Japan for authentic experiences. I would prefer if they change one of the spaces to feature other fusion dishes incorporating different cuisine style for more variety. Noted that there was also Mexican influences in a few of the dishes presented as well. Perhaps progressively they’ll expand their recipes to incorporate other global cuisines (think Indian, Thai, Turkish etc.).
Nonetheless, the key takeaway I gained from their cooking was the spirit of INVENTION, especially their attempts to use a single ingredient and create components of various textures to form a dish. It was also apparent that the restaurant’s menu is ever changing as even when people are allowed to take photos and document what they ate, no two menus are entirely the same.
Earlier Photos Taken:
A few years ago, we arrived at Casa Vicens to see it boarded up for restoration works, glad to see it in the vibrant colours now.
Iconic cast iron gate with intricate palm leaves design.
Not an area being left out in Casa Vicens, even the ceiling is richly decorated with papier mache plant motifs between the beams. The decorations are clearly inspired by nature: plants and leaves.
As with other subsequent designs by Gaudí, the roof top was the highlight. Several brightly coloured terracotta covered cupolas and chimneys can be seen. The ornate flora grill was intricate and unique as well.
Having visited other Gaudí designed buildings, I find Casa Vicens to be somewhat different due to the incorporation of Moorish architectural style.
Photos from flight back to Singapore:
Singapore Chicken and Beef Satay with onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce and Balik Smoked Salmon with Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Potato cake, cherry tomato and rocket salad.
Thai Style Prawns with Choo-Chee Curry Sauce Stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice.
Fried rice vermicelli with Chicken in XO Sauce Leafy greens and mushrooms.
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